In a sense, a detector — handheld, mobile or stationary — is the frontline tool within a network of CBRN detection, analysis and identification instruments. Detectors provide information either as a single tool or as part of a network of tools that will contribute to the work in mobile and fixed-site laboratories by correctly classifying and identifying the threat materials. “When entering an area or a building suspected of CBRN activities, a handheld detector is useful in that it gives warnings and location of the substance in question,” Heyl said. “Detailed and confirmed identification of a substance in question can be determined later in a laboratory setting — mobile, modular or fixed — for further analysis.”
Detection or identification for substance specfic for legal and evidentiary purposes is based on the requirements of individual customers or countries. “Normally, separate samples are needed for laboratory analysis to verify the detection. This, however, is arranged by the users,” Anttalainen said. “The detector provider can help the users choose which method of sampling and analysis will be employed, and detectors are used to screen the area where sampling should be made.”
Transferring Intell igence and Samples Transfers of detected information to the central database are roughly separated into two methods. First, for immaterialized substance such as radiological threats, handheld radiological detectors have built-in space for storing spectra. “The purpose of such capability is to perform further analysis away from the radiation source or to send the spectra to teams or agencies better equipped for advanced analysis,” Koga said. Electronic information captured on detectors can also be transmitted back to the central database via wireless or wired connections for further reference and study. CBRN detectors can be connected to other security systems, if their communication interfaces are compatible.
The second type of transmission involves materialized substances, such as chemical, biological and gas threats. In addition to detecting threats, field engineers need to collect samples for further testing and analysis in laboratories. “Simply speaking, the samples would be collected and placed inside a pre-cleaned container before getting double-wrapped and transported in a second container to a designated laboratory,” Heyl said.
Mobile laboratories are gaining popularity as a convenient way to test and analyze samples immediately following sampling for faster results. “These laboratories are a significant advancement in on-site threat assessment,” said Keith Landy, President of Germfree.
Mobile laboratories are versatile, reliable and rugged even in extremely harsh weather conditions. “Providing information to incident commanders at the site of origin allows for timely decisions that lead to saving lives, infrastructure and the environment,” Heyl said. “Mobile laboratories present this capability in-situ by providing credible and defensible information to the incident commander.” Additionally, mobile laboratories are capable of archiving samples, later transitioning the samples and all relevant data to fixed-site laboratories for longer storage periods. Particularly when investigating law enforcement cases, the samples require proper storage under correct environmental controls to ensure appropriate conditions for forensic evidentiary needs later on. When it is conclusive that the sample is no longer needed, laboratory experts can destroy the samples right in the laboratory.
Samples can be stored properly in both mobile and fixed-site laboratories that are designed to preserve evidence while safeguarding the integrity of the sample given the right setup. Equipment like safes, surveil-lance cameras, environmental controls and recorders of controls are common devices used in laboratories. Biometric installments at designated access points, such as retinal and fingerprint scanners, are also used for additional security. “With newer technologies more available and affordable than before, it has become easier to integrate the safety features that are necessary for sample preservation into mobile and fixed-site laboratories,” Heyl said. “In order to preserve sample integrity, the samples and the associated information with samples, such as chain of custody documentation, must be tracked and retained under proper circumstances and in the appropriate way to have value within the law enforcement community.”